The Political Malpractice Of The Health Bill

Jon Walker fleshes out an argument I made for the entire year - going the 60 vote route in the Senate for "comprehensive" health care reform instead of following the Schumer two bills plan was political malpractice by the Democrats:

By insisting that the bill be passed using regular order, where it would need all 60 votes in the Democratic caucus to break a filibuster, Obama and Harry Reid made many conservative Democrats in the Senate take votes that were not in their political self-interest. The issue had become so partisan, attempts by conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln to make the bill more “centrist-y” and lard it up with local pork simply backfired. The conservative constituents are still angry because, in the end, they still voted for something labeled “health care reform,” and the Democratic base in state is now pissed because they ended up crippling the bill for seemingly no reason (let’s not forget Lincoln’s Senate website still claimed she supported a public option even as she was saying on the Senate floor that she would filibuster any bill that had one). Passing the bill using reconciliation with only 50 votes would have allowed several conservative Democrats–like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, and Mary Landrieu–to avoid taking a tough political vote.

Precisely. Nelson, Lincoln and others could have voted No for the reconciliation bill, which would have included funding, a public option, Medicaid expansion, etc and then voted for the smaller bore "regulatory reform" stuff via regular order. This was an obvious approach since the summer. The mistake was allowing Baucus to hijack the process. And I think there is strong evidence that that decision was made in the White House. Today, you have a bill that is not very popular with Democrats and is loathed by Republicans and Independents. Whatever the merits of the policy, there is not doubt that the health bill has become a political debacle for Democrats.

Speaking for me only

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    Why then was Baucus allowed to hijack? (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:00:39 PM EST
    Was it an honest mistake or did the administration want more centrist legislation to be created so they went this route straight to disaster?

    Am I remembering correctly Baucus's (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by oculus on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:04:27 PM EST
    key staffer on HCR is formerly a health insurance guru?

    Former Wellpoint executive: (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by oculus on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:06:20 PM EST
    Yes (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:08:29 PM EST
    But that doesn't explain to me why a blue dog was allowed to hijack the whole thing.  That part of this whole mess seems deliberate to me along with how the blue dog told the party what it was going to do instead of the party telling the blue dog what he was going to do to maintain their support if he was going to do it this way.  Something smells ripe around here.

    And the House is attempting to stand up (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:14:56 PM EST
    to Obama on the excise tax.  Amazing how he managed to find a can of whoop something to open up on the House.  Go unions........cuz I don't think the House can do this without you guys since our President found a can of spinach or something in the pantry.

    Yes, it sure seems as though (5.00 / 6) (#8)
    by Zorba on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:25:58 PM EST
    the only time Obama uses the "power of the Presidency" is against the more progressive-minded members of his own party.  The only thing that seems to make sense as an explanation for allowing a Blue Dog to hijack the process was that this was what Obama wanted all along.  

    And obRahma can't stop calling Libs his byotches (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Ellie on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:13:46 PM EST
    ... to prove his manly cred in front of Limbaugh and Gawd and everyone.

    And not to derail the focus on the Senate, but it looks like hard times ahead for health care/insurance saboteurs apart from Nelson and Lincoln.

    MENOMINEE, Mich. -- Representative Bart Stupak often endures things others find unbearable. He crisscrosses a Congressional district so vast that some constituents live eight hours apart and so cold that the beer at his beloved football games sometimes freezes.  [...]

    "The National Right to Life Committee and the bishops saw this [health care bill] as a way to vastly increase restrictions on choice," said Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, who is a chief deputy House whip and co-chairwoman, with Ms. Slaughter, of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.

    Mr. Stupak was "not given very much negotiating room" by those organizations, Ms. DeGette said. Now "he's gotten himself into a corner where he says it's my amendment or it's nothing."

    (Mr. Stupak says he urged the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to toughen its stance on the legislation; representatives from the conference and the National Right to Life Committee did not return calls.)

    For now, as he mulls his return to Washington, Mr. Stupak is canvassing his district, adding to the 180,000 miles on his Oldsmobile, and grilling -- in the snow, without a jacket -- at his lakeside log-cabin home for his wife, Laurie.

    He is trying to pass the health care overhaul, he insists, not sabotage it, and predicts that the legislation will ultimately collapse for reasons apart from abortion. But he will be blamed anyway, he is sure.

    "I get the distinct impression that I'm the last guy the president wants to see," he said. (Abortion Foe Defies Party on Health Care Bill  By JODI KANTOR (NYTimes January 6, 2010))

    Why, Gawd, why, must bad things happen to sh!tty people?!?! [/anemic fist shake &or wank-motion]

    By bad things, I'm of course referring to his beer freezing at his football games. The other stuff about being in a bad place with "pro"-life medievalists is poetic justice.


    His own fault (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:16:04 PM EST
    For representing Michigan and rooting for the Packers.

    Bwahahaha! (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by Zorba on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:27:36 PM EST
    My 2010 wish is for worse things than frozen beer befall Stupak.  ;-)

    So Stupak is even too stupid (none / 0) (#44)
    by Cream City on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 08:24:59 PM EST
    to put his can o' brewski in a heated beer cozy?  And I bet that some of you thought those were only for keeping beer cold in summer!

    It's heading closer to zero here, while the snow is heading up to as much as a foot in total, after half of that so far.  Bless our neighbor who got him a small tractor plow, suitable for sidewalks, and has been running it up and down the block . . . one-handed, with his beer in a cozy in the other hand.


    Yup, Beersicle Man's the ideal guy to oversee (none / 0) (#46)
    by Ellie on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 09:49:11 PM EST
    ... any health care/insurance choices related to female plumbing.

    Jesus Effin' Cee.


    MT, meet President Blue Dog (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:51:55 PM EST
    Hijack from whom? (5.00 / 6) (#18)
    by Anne on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:27:21 PM EST
     Not from the president, that's for sure.  From the progressives?  Pssshhht.  Come on - those people weren't going to tap the president on the shoulder and say, "um...pardon me, excuse me, could I have a moment of your time to tell you this is not going to help people," were they?  And when they come out and talk tough to the media about deal-breakers, and lines in the sand, they're just posturing - they never DO anything.  Their slogan must be "Oh, well - we tried."

    Baucus didn't hijack anything: he was given the keys to the car, a full tank of gas and a map to where the president wanted to go.  And that's just it, Tracy - the president who went all Harry and Louise on Hillary Clinton never had any intention of crafting health CARE reform.  This was never the kind of 11-dimensional chess people thought Obama was playing, where he would bamboozle the industry for our benefit while making the industry think he's on their side.  No, he was playing the people, believing that we are the dumb ones who can be placated with false talking points and won't notice the footsie he's been playing with Billy Tauzin or care about the numerous visits from industry executives.

    We can Monday morning quarterback this legislation until we are blue in the face, but it isn't going to change it into something it's not; but then, the plan was never for it to be what it needed to be, and what the people wanted it to be, because the fix was in from Day One.

    God, I am just sick to death of being treated as if I were stupid.


    You go, girl (5.00 / 4) (#22)
    by Zorba on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:37:04 PM EST
    I'm tired of the Obama apologists who blame Baucus, the rest of the Blue Dogs, Rahm Emanuel, the "11-dimensional chess" strategy that we're supposed to be too stupid to understand, or anything else.  This whole mess needs to be blamed on one person, and one person only- Barack Obama.  What he has done, and not done, leads to one inevitable conclusion.  This is pretty much the bill he wanted: industry friendly and a piece of pasture puckey that he thinks he can sell to the general populace as some type of "health care reform."

    Obama Chose Baucus (none / 0) (#41)
    by norris morris on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 05:10:53 PM EST
    Do you think for a minute that Baucus could have been the One to start this HC debte if Team Obama objected?

    Let's not be naive. We all got snookered. Obama is a pragmatic centrist.

    Translation" A centrist who will move to the right when politically expedient.  A centrist who underestimates his progressive base which is not entirely as leftist as he presumes.

    Independents,liberals both right and left, are disappointed with the Healthcare mess which is a profoundly compromised fiasco loaded with bribery, backroom deals, no C-Span as promissed, and a nightmare of fog and lack of clarity.

    The little we do know is terrible from mandating us to private insurers or pay a tax, using an attack on women's right to choose as another corrupt political manouver, to running a secret
    deal behind our backs with BigPharma & Insurance lobbyists.

    There's unfortunately more, but Team Obama is cynical and out of touch with a base they need but have disdained, ignored, and insulted.

    If Obama cannot do a real turn to correct from here on in, I feel he will be a one term president and a real problem for Democrats for a long,long time.


    Good comment, but for the caveat (none / 0) (#45)
    by Cream City on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 08:26:35 PM EST
    that not all of us got snookered.  Some of us saw this coming.  And wait until you see year two.

    I'm sure it also annoyed plenty of (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by tigercourse on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:10:39 PM EST
    moderates or people with no opinion on the matter because they spent months and months messily arguing about the issue even as many other very important subjects (JOBS) went virtually unaddressed.

    I figure Schumer has a decent shot at being the next Majority leader (though I guess Durbin is a better bet). I wonder how he will handle the job.

    Durbin? He caved. (none / 0) (#42)
    by norris morris on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 05:14:26 PM EST
    Apparently you haven't been watching Durbin's comments when he caved on the public option.
    Disgustingly cowardly for a man who has obviously been a faux liberal.

    This is what you want as a Leader of the US Senate and insure it's future as a majority party?

    You're dreamin'.


    A long long time ago (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:20:38 PM EST
    in a galaxy far away:

    Kent Conrad:

    Conrad had resisted including the reconciliation measure in the resolution his committee passed last week and sent to the Senate floor for debate this week.

    "I don't think reconciliation is the right way to write fundamental reform legislation," he said Monday during a morning conference call with reporters before the Senate began debate on the measure...

    ...But Conrad warned that if there's no Republican cooperation this week -- "if it's proved absolutely essential" -- a second budget resolution that includes the controversial but common reconciliation provision would likely be sent to the floor.

    "I would strongly prefer not to do it that way," said Conrad, who predicted that Democrats would get some Republican cooperation this week.

    "I believe there are a group of Republicans who fully intend to help write major health care reform legislation," he said, "and I think we ought to engage them."

    Reconciliation was an option and it was numbskulls like Conrad who allowed it in.  Which I think supports what you are saying here.

    It is nice to see a fresh argument that pushes back on the "oh noes not reconciliation!" stuff although it is a little late.

    To be clear (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:26:12 PM EST
    this argument is not new. It has been forwarded since the summer of Baucus.

    I may not be remembering correctly (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:32:15 PM EST
    but the idea that Conservadems in particular would like reconciliation seems somewhat new.  Most of the anti-reconciliation arguments assume it would just piss them all off to the point where they would refuse to function.  In the quote above Conrad shockingly sounds like a partisan or at least like someone who doesn't think reconciliation is testing the limits of reality.  

    But yeah, he and Baucus want credit now, so he's not going to ditch what they came up with.  


    and I should add (none / 0) (#11)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:33:54 PM EST
    not just like reconciliation because it is good for them (avoiding hard votes) but that they might've been very easy to shepherd into the reconciliation/regular bill strategy.  IOW, that the Conservadems are (gasp!) SELF-AWARE.

    That they SHOULD have preferreed it? (none / 0) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 01:49:34 PM EST
    Not new. I argued it all summer.

    not that they should've (none / 0) (#14)
    by lilburro on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:01:36 PM EST
    but that they (Conservadems) would've actually been very, very open as a group to it.  Because as you say, it would've been very beneficial to them.

    I don't know that that is at all provable.  As Booman might say, "Obama knew that Nelson and Landrieu did not want to use reconciliation even though it would give them cover, so he allowed Baucus to write a bill and did not develop a comprehensive early reconciliation strategy."


    Disgusted (none / 0) (#43)
    by norris morris on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 06:15:46 PM EST
    Aren't you all absolutely disgusted at the selfish
    lying, bumbling bunch of corrupt hacks who were left in charge of this mess?  UGH!

    And aren't you disgusted wuth the sneaky politics that has already backfired on Team Obama's ham fisted and corrupt attempt at cobbling this piece of incompetent,devious,dangerous crap together?

    How can anyone fail to cringe at Democrats pretending to be on the side of the public?

    How can anyone presume to expect bi-partisanship from the kind of party the Republicans have become? And how could anyone believe Obama was  amateurish enough to allow the control & framing of the debate that Republicans succeeded in doing?

    And aren't you turned off by the deafening silence from Obama to the public in clarifying the public option?

    This is so politically corrupt from the White House, House, and Senate that I am still in a state of disbelief as to how simply awful the Democrats in their majority have failed to govern.

    They haven't missed a trick. Let a right wing democrat from a small state bribe  senate leader  Reid and Obama into giving him Medicare $$$ at everyone else's expense. Bribery to Landrieu of Louisianna and Nelson for their votes? And Nelson's despicable end run ala Stupak on women's rights? The end run by Stupak and Nelson to gain political points by using women's right to choose and threatening RoevWade is criminal.

    The pork is all over this bill in both Houses.

    Now Stupak who takes his orders from the Catholic Council of Bishops, threatens not to vote if his  attempts to draw blood are not left in the house bill and supercedes Nelson's end run on RoevWade?

    This is more than disgusting. It's evil.


    Not only malpractice (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by mmc9431 on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:20:18 PM EST
    But total incompetence that will leave this administration and the Democratic party in a totally weakened condition.

    The Republicans were going to be obstructionists from the beginning. After this blood bath with HCR, Obama and the Democrats are going to be lucky to get anything through Congress.

    If this is an example of the "New Democratic Party" we're sunk. I never thought I would see Democrats trashing union workers, advocating pro life legislation, and shafting the middle class. All in one neat little bill. Amazing. Truly change you can believe in.

    Given how many Republicans (none / 0) (#24)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:43:37 PM EST
    aren't running for reelection now, I think if the Dems pulled left right now they could change that.  Is that what this President would want though?  Stronger Dems in place with another obvious left mandate in hand.

    Doing the math (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by CST on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:55:37 PM EST
    I wonder how many seats in the senate are really vulnerable.

    Also, I could easily see Dems losing a few, but also picking up a few.  I would be pretty surprised, for example, if Dems didn't at least pick up NH.

    I'd say the House is probably in more trouble than the senate honestly.

    Frankly, if Blue Dogs get kicked out, but Dems still keep the majority, I sure won't be crying.  Although I'd obviously rather see them lose primaries.


    NH may not be that easy (none / 0) (#33)
    by itscookin on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 03:30:19 PM EST
    I don't know about NH. Kelly Ayotte is polling ahead of Paul Hodes, the likely Dem.

    Dems are really vulnerable in the house. (none / 0) (#35)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 03:38:47 PM EST
    Repubs will either take the house or get close.

    For the senate, the floor is a net 3 pick for repubs.  I would bet 45-47 (it is hard to see them getting the senate, but they will make gains).  Stepping down does not mean the seat become contested.  Dodd's retirement for example keeps his senate seat for the dems that would have certainly been lost if his name was on the ballot.  Dorgan offsets this as his seat will almost certainly go to repubs.


    we'll see (none / 0) (#36)
    by CST on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 03:51:31 PM EST
    I know stepping down doesn't always make it contested - clearly with Dodd that was a net gain for Dems.  That being said, there are some pretty vulnerable Republican seats too.  I think we will certainly lose at least a few couple Dem seats.  The question remains whether they can be made up elsewhere.

    It's a long way to november yet.  So anything can happen obviously.  I wouldn't write off the house just yet.  Although it doesn't look great.


    The democrats at risk include (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 04:31:55 PM EST
    Reid (Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkenian are both beating him pretty good in the polls right now)

    Dorgan's seat (almost a guaranteed pick up)

    Bennet (polling is good for republicans but his stepping down throw a monkey wrench in that)

    Blanch Lincoln (I think she is toast if this bill goes through - no current poll has her above 39% and nearly 60% of the state strongly oppose bill)

    Kauffman (Delaware is a tough state for the GOP but Castle is ahead in the polls - still waiting to see if Biden runs for that seat)

    Specter (he might actually win the primary but he is getting drilled right now in the general by Toomy)

    Burris (contested but the democrats I think will hold this one)

    Dodd's seat (contested but the democrats will win this one with his name not on the ballot)

    Gillibrans (constested but with Giulliani not running, democrats I think hold this one as well)

    Bayh (if health care bill passes, I think he is toast)

    Boxer, Inouye, and Kirk's seat are theoretically contested as of now, but there is very little chance I think of the Democrats losing these.

    For the republicans, the only seat that seems difficult for them to keep is Bond's seat in Missouri.  December polls show Democratic Carnahan beating Republican Rep. Roy Blunt 46-44

    However, Republicans usually do better than predicted in Missouri, the only swing state to go to McCain in 2008.

    2008 was not a good year to be a republican.  2010 is not going to be a good year to be a Democrat.


    Republican (none / 0) (#32)
    by jbindc on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 03:28:24 PM EST
    "retirees" down the line - many are running for higher office.  The Dem "retirees" are just retiring.  The Dems aren't going to pull left - not when the country is pulling a more rightward then 2008 after the bailouts, the health care disaster bill, and the economy.

    It's weird -- I mean convenient -- how this hugely (none / 0) (#27)
    by Ellie on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:54:47 PM EST
    ... fills Obama's 2012 corporate campaign chest with industry quid pro quo ducats, while allowing those spotless and neatly rolled-up shirt-sleeves to remain pristine.

    I wonder if they could have gotten the 50. (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by steviez314 on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:29:40 PM EST
    How many more senators were opposed to the public option, but let Lieberman/Lincoln, etc. carry the water for them?  Webb, Nelson (FL)?

    How many senators would have voted no just because of the use of the reconciliation procedure?  Byrd?

    I think it would have been way closer than you do.  And how politically disastrous would it have been to not be able to get the 50?

    Can we come up with 10 names that would have (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:51:22 PM EST
    realistically voted no?

    We know Lieberman and Nelson would have been a no.

    Lincoln and Landrieu probably.  That is 4.

    Bayh? Conrad? Baucas?  If Bryd said no due to process that is only 8.  We are really pushing it for that and we still need 2 more.


    Actually 3 more since Biden can break a 50-50 tie. (none / 0) (#26)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:52:13 PM EST
    I think you start with the 10 that (none / 0) (#30)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 03:01:35 PM EST
    prevent it from getting from 50 to 60 in the cloture vote, then add Byrd and maybe more that object to the reconciliation process.

    Yes, I suspect that also (none / 0) (#29)
    by ruffian on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:59:12 PM EST
    They probably know they would lose a reconciliation vote, just by virtue of it being a reconciliation vote and not regular order.

    That would explain the strategy. While the (none / 0) (#31)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 03:26:14 PM EST
    non-reconciliation process gave every democratic senator unilateral veto power, it also made the Republicans 100% of the no votes.  Rahm probably thought it would be a good thing to get to 60 and make the republicans look like health care obstructionists.  It has and will backfire becaused of how detested the senate bill is.

    So why are democrats still supporting this? (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by Slado on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:29:47 PM EST
    We all know it sucks.

    People like me hate it because it expands government power with little or no real benefits and explodes the deficit past 10years.

    Liberals hate it because it doesn't deliver on any of the promises this whole process was based on and gives tons of money to private insurers.

    As far as I can tell we all loose with this (other then the 31 million who get some coverage but who knows).

    Why are some so determined to push this through no matter what?   Can't we all band together and stop this train wreck and start over?

    I mean now governors are realizing how screwed they're going to be and they want off.  

    I have thought about that. (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 03:34:06 PM EST
    This bill is such a political failure it makes no sense why they would rahm it through.  My only guess is that they are acting like bank robbers in a bank robbery gone bad.  The robbers assume before they start everything will go relatively smooth - we have the numbers, the weapons, fear factor on our side, etc.  We can just run in, scare everyone, grab the loot and boogy out.  Then things start slowly going downhill, it takes longer, guns go off, someone gets hurt, police surround the building, etc. like Dog Day Afternoon.  At some point it makes sense to just stop and walk away minimizing the damage.  But once you are overexposed, people keep digging themselves in deeper and deeper believing they can still turn it around.

    The sensible thing to do would be to stop, put together a good bill, and use reconciliation to push it through.  It is too late for that though.


    High five'd you for this brilliant coinage (none / 0) (#37)
    by Ellie on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 04:10:37 PM EST
    This bill is such a political failure it makes no sense why they would rahm it through.

    If you did this intentionally it's wonderful.

    If it was unintentional, then the Net Gawds speak through your fingers and you deserve deference.


    Intentional...thought you might like it :) (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by Buckeye on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 04:17:50 PM EST
    Great catch (none / 0) (#38)
    by Slado on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 04:16:40 PM EST
    I thought the same thing.

    The bank robbery comparison was spot on.   You start thinking what could go wrong and when it all goes horribly wrong you forget why you are too focused on the money to remember it's not worth it.


    The conservadems could have just (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by andgarden on Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 02:39:26 PM EST
    quietly voted for cloture. That would have worked out MUCH better for Ben Nelson.